In 1913, Giants manager John McGraw, wrote an article that ran in newspapers across the country, in which he made the case that baseball had “practically eliminated the ‘bad actor,’” citing the World Series and the development of the game as a business as the primary factors.
McGraw said many of the players of his day “had paths worn from the ballpark to some favorite saloon and back to the grounds.” McGraw singled out one player in particular to make his point.
Frederick “Crazy” Schmit pitched for parts of five seasons for five different American and National League teams from 1890-1901, posting a career record of 7-36. (Schmit’s name was almost universally misspelled by contemporary newspapers–the misspellings have been corrected in quotes that reference him).
McGraw wrote (and likely embellished) about Schmit, who was his teammate in 1892 and ’93 and who he managed in 1901 with the Baltimore Orioles:
“(W)e had a pitcher named Schmit generally and aptly called ‘Crazy’ Schmit. His habits were nothing for a temperance society lecturer to dwell upon as an example…I called (Schmit) into a corner the day before the first game (of a series with the Cleveland Blues) and told him that I wanted him to pitch the next afternoon and asked him to get into good shape. He said he would be out there with everything on the ball. That was one thing about him—he never knocked his own ability.
“But Schmit’s notion of preparations did not coincide with mine. I learned afterwards that he went directly from my lecture to his favorite loafing place and remained there telling his friends what he would do to Cleveland the next day.”
McGraw claimed that Schmit fell down on the mound (there’s no contemporary report o confirm it) and:
“Those were the days of quick action, so I rushed into the box from third base where I was playing, sore enough to do anything.
‘Get out of here.’ I yelled at him ‘You are released.’
“He laboriously regained his feet, and with ludicrous dignity walked out of the pitcher’s box and toward the exit of the park. As he left he whirled on me and exclaimed dramatically: ‘I go to tell the world that the great Schmit has been released.”
McGraw said the pitcher only made it as far as the same tavern he had been at the day before, “and we had to send his clothes to him.”
McGraw wrote that before he release Schmit he used a tactic he later tried with “Bugs” Raymond; withholding money from the pitcher to keep him from spending it on liquor:
“After a time I began to miss baseballs in great numbers from the clubhouse and my suspicions were aroused, so I followed Schmit when he left the grounds one night…Schmit proceeded to a corner and mounted a soapbox which he produced from the bushes nearby, and then he pulled five or six league balls, partly used, out of his pocket and began to auction them off as ‘genueen leeg balls.’ For some of them he got as high as $5 apiece. Or rather, he received $5 for the first one, and then I interrupted him and took the rest away.”
Schmit was released by the Orioles on June 10, 1901; he continued to pitch in semi-pro and outlaw leagues for more than a decade, and worked as a scout–for the New York Giants, managed by John McGraw.
Another “Crazy” Schmit story tomorrow.